Severe Covid patients had less access to monoclonal antibody therapy

New York: Due to unequal distribution, people over the age 65 at the highest risk for severe Covid-19 have often been the least likely to receive monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), according to new research.

Monoclonal antibodies are very effective at treating mild to moderate Covid-19 infection among non-hospitalised patients. But during the pandemic, mAbs have been in short supply.

“Monoclonal antibodies should first go to patients at the highest risk of death from Covid-19, but the opposite happened — the healthiest patients were the most likely to get treatment,” said Michael Barnett, Assistant Professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Unfortunately, our federal and state system for distributing these drugs has failed our most vulnerable patients,” he added.

In the study, published online in JAMA, the team looked at data from more than 1.9 million Medicare beneficiaries who had been diagnosed with Covid-19 between November 2020 and August 2021.

They found that among Medicare beneficiaries who weren’t hospitalised or who didn’t pass away within seven days of their diagnosis, only 7.2 per cent received mAb therapy.

The likelihood of receiving mAbs was higher among those with fewer chronic conditions — 23.2 per cent of those with no chronic conditions received mAbs, versus people with several chronic conditions, respectively.

“We need new approaches to prevent these inequities from happening again with newer treatments on the horizon,” said Barnett.

According to health experts, the highly effective therapy shouldn’t be used unnecessarily on people.

It should be used only among those above 65 years, with a Body Mass Index higher than 35, diabetics, chronic kidney disease patients, immunosuppressed individuals.

It can also be used among people below 55, if they are patients of hypertension, chronic lung disease; and even in children aged below 12 years, and having a BMI higher than 35.

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